Phonozoic Text Archive, Document 125

The Speaking Automaton on Railways

Punch, Volume 11 (July-December 1846), p. 143.

IT has been suggested that it would be a very great improvement to the electric telegraph--or as SIR J. HERSCHEL calls it, "the scum and effervescence of science"--if the Speaking Automaton were combined with it.  The communications made from station to station, might then be spoken at once, instead of being conveyed by signs, which are not easily understood by any but a person accustomed to interpret them.  A figure could also be placed at the ticket platform, for the purpose of articulating--"Tick--ets.  Gents--get--your--tick--ets r-r-r-ea--dy" at the place appointed for receiving the documents.

At the South Western Railway Station speaking automata would save an immense deal of trouble to the clerks, who generally object to speak at all, when a question is asked of them.  Besides, there is a blandness in the tones of an automaton, which would be refreshing after the sharp, or rather the blunt manner in which a railway official replies--when he deigns to reply at all--to the questions put to him.

A speaking automaton might also be useful to the South-Eastern Company, for the questionable policy of increasing the fares causes the directors to be assailed with queries which it would tire anything but a piece of mechanism to answer.

A number of speaking automata would also be found very serviceable as representatives of the Railway King, who is chairman of so many companies, that he cannot be present personally at all the meetings.  If his place were to be supplied by an automaton communicating by means of the electric telegraph with his own house, he could easily address the various boards, however far they might be apart from each other, or distant from his residence.